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Friday, 22 February 2013

February bugs

Happily this is bugs of the insect variety, no nasty germs running around here! Earlier in the week whilst we were basking in glorious sunshine we had a little pre-taste of spring and out came some bugs to play. It sounded a bit strange to hear the drone of honey bees again - just a fleeting sound now and again and one that I take for granted during the summer months. I actually saw a bumble bee warming itself on the side of our trailer, but it had gone after I'd run inside for the camera. I think it was a queen as it was huge. 

All sorts of insects and several jumping spiders have been sunning themselves on many of the vertical surfaces outside, from the sides of our metal barn to the compost bins, trailer and the granite of the house walls. This doesn't make for the prettiest of backgrounds in which to photograph insects, but makes them easier to find!

I've made a start of tidying up my front bed which is the one full of herbs and plants which attract butterflies. Already the euphorbias are budding up and looking attractive and there are a few daffodils nearly out.  Euphorbias attract many kinds of insects but I didn't see any on them yet.

Both these Euphorbias are self seeded ones,
and for once in the 'right' place!

No sooner had I knelt down to start snipping and weeding when along came a honey bee and landed on me! This time I had my compact camera in my pocket so out it came for a snap.

Just call me The Bee Whisperer!

The previous day I'd taken some shots of insects on my barn walls and compost bins. All winter there has been insect activity around the compost bins but mostly just tiny flies, springtails and red velvet mites. Suddenly there was a lot more activity, with a Zebra jumping spider (family Salticidae, and from hereonin referred to as 'Salties') on one of the bins and another on the barn wall, large flies, and other creatures. I got shooting as I'd really missed my insects!

A not sure but possibly Flea Beetle

Red Velvet Mite (family Trombidiidae)

Another not sure but possibly a Rove Beetle

Firebugs are usually visible during winter, especially on a sunny day. They bask in family groups at the base of the lime trees, and this is another favourite spot of theirs. It's the base of our rose/clematis arch and the wooden posts are set into metal sockets with stakes which have been hammered into the ground, keeping the wood from rotting. For some reason they love it here and can fit down in the small space between wood and metal. They were also individuals climbing around on the barn walls too!

Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus)

And so to the Salties. Since I have discovered that these delightfully cute tiny little spiders actually exist here I've been seeing them all over the place. However I was thinking that so far I've seen them on my outdoor table, compost bins, barn walls, inside all around my window frames, particularly when I've cleaned the windows, behind the curtains.... you get the picture.... but never yet on any vegetation, which would be rather nice to see! I also really wanted to see one actually capturing some prey.

This is the best shot I got of the Zebra Saltie on my compost bin, as both this one and the one on the barn wall would barely stand still to pose.

I cannot say with absolute certainty that this is a Zebra spider, (Salticus scenicus)
as there is another species with very similar markings.

Beautiful markings

Now what was that about wanting desperately to see one jumping on some prey? Guess what, the next day a completely different species of Saltie did that, on the same compost bin, right before my very eyes! Luckily I had trusty compact camera to hand, although unluckily, it doesn't do good macros with anything smaller than 1cm. But I was still happy as larry to have witnessed and captured this. :-)

Jumping Spider with prey

Now what was that about never having seen a Saltie on vegetation before? Well that day that I took the honey bee on my leg, a few moments before I'd taken a shot of a Shield Bug on my box ball which I'd noticed just as I'd knelt down to start weeding. I took a pic just because it was there and I could.

A few days later I downloaded the photos and was thinking, not very good and what is that bird poo in the photo? I have to explain that I spent a good amount of time last year examining and photographing bird poo, in the hope that it may have been something more interesting, such as a tiny caterpillar - many do disguise themselves as bird poo to detract predators. But no, unfortunately all I ever discovered was.... bird poo.

However look at this shot. It wasn't poo after all. I hadn't even noticed it was there as I'd only looked at the Shield Bug. This photo is already cropped and anyone who knows what Box is like will know how small the leaves are, ergo the insects were small.

Unidentified Shield Bug on right, and 'bird poo' on left. Only, it wasn't.

Mega cropped in, I'm kicking myself. Right in front of my bloody eyes, here was a Saltie not just on a leaf, but with a buggy lunch package as well!!! Oh the things we miss! I'm still laughing about it now.

Tiny Saltie with prey

Still I did manage a good 'un. I was photographing dewdrops on grass when all of a sudden a tiny money spider appeared in the viewfinder and I managed to get these three shots of it spinning silk whilst waltzing over the tiny dewdrop.

Now we are back to very cold again, still sunny but with a nasty north east wind making it feel bitterly cold outside, so hopefully my bugs are tucked up somewhere sheltered.

We have still not completely finished the orchard pruning - seven apple trees and three pears down, only one more apple to go. We are now feeling, not our age, but about 103! Digging the veg patch will seem easy after this!


  1. Well done you for finding and shooting the Salties Mandy! I'm going to stalking them when we get some better weather :-))

    1. Thanks Chris and I'm sure you will find some eventually - and whilst looking you are going to find all sorts of other bugs too! Roll on the real bug season!